Cuba Promises Russian Businessmen That They Will Be Able To Manage Hotels on the Island

Last year, Russian tourism grew 3.4 times compared to 2022 / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 March 2024 — With the arrival in Russia of Juan Carlos García Granda, Cuban Minister of Tourism, this week, the Island took a step further in its attachment to the Kremlin. Investment opportunities, inauguration of Russian-managed hotels and all kinds of facilities for tourists are Havana’s new promises to Moscow in exchange for obtaining, “in the short term,” the arrival of half a million travelers.

“The task we have put forward is to attract capital from Russian investors for Cuban tourism (…). We are working with the Russian hotel industry to have them manage hotel chains in Cuba. We want Russian businessmen to build their hotels in Cuba,” García Granda said at a conference in Moscow on Thursday.

We want Russian businessmen to build their hotels in Cuba,” García Granda said on Thursday

Cuba expects to receive more than 200,000 Russian tourists this year, a modest goal if you take into account that in 2023 more than 184,800 Russians visited Cuba, which resulted in a 3.4 percent increase in tourism from that country compared to the previous year. This was also recognized by the minister, who explained that “it is not a very large figure in absolute terms, but it will be a rather motivating result for us. I hope that in the short term, while I’m still minister, we will reach half a million.”

“The hotel business in Cuba has been developing for 30 years with the help of foreign investment. And, if we depend on Russian tourism, then it would be logical for this business to be managed by people who know Russian tourists well,” argued the minister. He added that this will involve the creation of “hotel complexes, various facilities with parking for yachts and other expansions.”

According to the minister, Cuba has adapted part of the sector so that Russian travelers feel comfortable when they visit the Island. “For example, Canadian tourists buy only one excursion while they are on vacation in Cuba. The Russians buy an average of three excursions. But over the years, customer preferences change, and we are planning to develop active and adventure tourism,” he explained. In addition, he added, “they can combine a vacation on the beach with an excursion and become familiar with Cuban culture, dance, rum production and tobacco plantations.”

The implementation of payments with MIR cards, since November 2023, was another of the “achievements” highlighted by the minister in the plan to “make things easier for the Russian client.”

“In these first months of operation, more than 2.7 million dollars have been transferred through MIR cards. There are 20,000 POS (point of sale) terminals in the main stores and tourist points throughout the country. This is something that is going to grow and all the conditions are created for it to do so,” he guaranteed. García Granda also insisted on the attractiveness of the Island for Russian tourists and clarified that “he hasn’t given up on the goal of the Russians occupying one of the first three places among foreign visitors to the country.”

Both countries propose to increase the number of flights and have their sights set on St. Petersburg

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the minister recalled, relations between Moscow and Havana allowed Russian travelers to continue arriving on the Island. Now, both countries intend to increase the number of flights and have their sights set on St. Petersburg, the second most populous and important city in Russia.

Last November, the Cuban ambassador to Moscow, Julio Garmendia, reported that both countries had agreed to establish an air route every ten days between St. Petersburg and Cayo Coco airport, in Ciego de Ávila, by the end of the year. However, the authorities have not revealed whether the agreement was finalized.

A similar plan was suggested this February by the St. Petersburg Tourism Development Commission, which expressed the intention to inaugurate charter flights from the Russian city to the Island. “We have to support the development of the tourism industry of each one. I think we have all the conditions to move from words to deeds,” said Óscar Enríquez, representative of the Ministry of Tourism of Cuba in Russia.

The disproportionate investment in the tourism sector, compared to others such as food or health, has not yielded the results that the regime expected. According to the annual report of selected tourism indicators, in 2023 three out of four hotel rooms on the Island were left empty.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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